What were you doing at the age of 16? Matt Walting is producing and directing a film. A junior in high school, the ambitious teen found a script he loved about bullying and suicide and is turning it into a feature film.
Can you sum up your film in two sentences?
When teenager Jesse Peterson tells his best friend Sarah that he plans on committing suicide, Sarah goes out of her way to try to save him.
What inspired you to be involved in this project?
The script of “Just Say Goodbye” was first written by Layla O’Shea about 10 years ago, and when I first read the script 2 years ago, it opened my eyes to the fact that bullying occurred more than people really thought or acknowledged. At the time I was a budding filmmaker, and even though I was really interested in producing the script, I had nowhere near the skills needed.
A couple years later, I contacted Layla about making it a short film, but we realized the story and lesson were just too valuable and important to cut down, so we made the choice to make a feature film. At the beginning of pre-production, a local photography team was beginning their endeavors of Western MA’s first anti-bullying initiative (Unify Against Bullying) and we began to work alongside them to help bring the film to the informative level we wanted it to be.
A major moment of inspiration and push to continue came when a student in my grade at my school, (I am currently an 11th grader), committed suicide during the time of production. We further realized how this struggle against suicide is even more real, and we strengthened our goals.
One of the biggest challenges has been the switch from micro-productions (short films/youtube videos) to low-budget feature films. Most of the cast and crew, although very professional, were also taking a part of their first feature film. It became a learning experience for everybody who was a part.
What has been your happiest/most rewarding moment in this journey?
The most rewarding moment(s) have probably been the people that I have been opened up to. I now work alongside a leading anti-bullying campaign that has reached worldwide, I’m more familiar with my hometown, where the movie was filmed, and there are so many amazing people I have met and helped make this film grow to where it is now.
We hope this film educates the audience on how to handle the threat of suicide; more specifically what to do if pressed with the situation. Our film tells the story of a girl who made the wrong choices until the very end, but by that time it was too late.
Where do you take it from here? What’s next?
We hope to someday take this film and turn it into an educational program and maybe one day tour schools and teach high schoolers (it is on the verge of Rated R) about the dangers of bullying and how to handle suicide.
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